Politics and International Relations
According to international law, at its most simple level, child trafficking in a crime involving the movement of a child, within a country or across borders, for the purpose of exploiting them. Despite the universalist aspiration of its definition in international law, this paper argues that the concept of child trafficking is understood and operationalized in different manners according to the context. More than simply proceeding from diverse understandings, the variability in implementation of child trafficking measures reflects, on the one hand, the limited understanding public authorities have of the phenomenon, as well as, on the other hand, a conscious instrumentalisation of the child trafficking norm to political and geostrategic ends. In order to understand how the material phenomenon of child trafficking is translated into legal and policy terms, and to what effects, the paper thus traces its emergence as an object of policy concern in the international arena, before examining its transformation in two different regional/local contexts: the EU/France and ASEAN/Thailand, both characteristic for their centre-stage position in the global fight against child trafficking. Analysing these cases, the paper uncovers the consequences that these performances of the child trafficking norm have on the minors affected, and contends that, far from reaching their objective of protection, they tend to ‘vulnerabilize’ trafficked children even further.